18 março 2016

The challenge. The revelation. The encounters.


Whomever said that not all comes easy in life was right, however 'pop-culture' this affirmation may sound like. For some things to manifest, sometimes there needs to be a struggle, and a shake off of your best and of your worst, from the most hidden spaces that inhabit your consciousness. You need to challenge yourself and (hope) to be in control while you do that, for an improved and more competitive version of yourself to unfold. 
People, places & time, have an unique way to carve a new spiritual shape of someone, just like the seas carve their way into the oceans. At the end, what's left, is the experience of flowing all as one.

Sometimes, the people you meet, are very different from the way you are or they have different approaches of coping with stress, different notions of joy, and different levels of perceiving the "new". Sometimes, the "new" can be you.

And if you are "on" to challenge yourself, why not go to the land of EVS and test your powers? Speaking of the oceans...the Atlantic shore in Portugal is wildly beautiful. I witnessed it myself, because... I took The Challenge, I went to The Land of EVS, with a project on theatre and film, called "CapitALL: Connecting Capitals, Building Europe", just like Alice went down the Rabbit Hole. Only that I did not go alone like Alice did, I went on an experiment with 14 other people coming from my own nation. And than, my white rabbit turned into a white tuk-tuk.

If Alice in Wonderland is about growing up, then so is the concept of EVS. The Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, the March Hare, the Dormouse, the Dodo, all are characters that took part in this EVS.


And guess what? While sometimes is hard to relate with people from your own nation, trying to fix your height and weight like Alice was doing, the reward is in fact a revelation. That each of us came here on planet Earth with our own plans and responsibilities, but once you learn how to sit back and enjoy, your ego will start dissipating into each other's personalities. What more can you wish for when you are in the team doing theatre, and you have the very Queen of Hearts opposing any new trends, and trying to get you in the army?

We didn't get in the army though, we got ourselves in the tram.

The vintage tram, or tram 28, that runs through Lisbon all the way to Miradouro de Santa Catarina, where the old legend says Napoleon wanted to behead one of Portugal's kings, and just stood there, watching the ships go by, as the King saved himself and escaped to Brazil, was a miraculous way to end our evenings looking through the endless sunsets, on a glass of sangria and local guitar accords.

But this wasn't the only tram we hopped on. We had an imaginary one as well, where we used to train our improvisation skills. From the misery of not having a ticket, to the 18th century European aristocratic attitude of demanding the existence of one, to fireworks and people dropping their eye on the floor of the tram and searching for it, like Johnny Depp was searching for his brain in Pirates of the Caribbean, it's safe to say we didn't skip not even one improvisation beat. If it wasn't in the tram, then it was in the taxi, driven by the female version of Bob Marley, with the aggressive maniac and duchess of Cambridge in the back, plus the Young Horny Lady in front. And you should have seen us when we started to switch the characters, and Bob Marley became horny while driving. No, not to the island where the crazy old gentleman used to go clubbing and than buried his wife, which was yet another story session to harden (or soften) our theatre skills, and sharpen the quickness of our minds, but to the castle. Which castle? We don't know, the one in England where the aggressive maniac was cleaning the floors.

Moulding onto each other's characters wasn't easy, not even when we were doing silent theatre, in pairs, cooking breakfast, and trying to figure out who puts sugar in its coffee, and who doesn't. No words allowed. Than, our "imaginary" dinners (cooked or ordered), when some were putting socks in their bras waiting for a lover who never came, or drank the wine before the lover showed up by the door, were as phenomenal as our "guess what" breakfast exercises.

By the time we started getting into each other's hair of who plays what and why, establishing the dynamics of the characters, and their history, vain Estrella, besieged Nuño, control freak Maria, hard working Rita, and our "Joker" jumped in, from our papers, to the set.

The set being, in our early stages, this neighborhood coffee place, where "meia de leite" (half milk coffe in a regular cup), and "pastéis de nata" were the norm for triggering the "write" button in early mornings when we felt too less inspired to create in our otherwise artistic hostel, from Bairro Padre Cruz, which is a pretty special place in Lisbon.

Located in the middle of nowhere, where all the subway and bus lines are ending (or beginning, it depends how you look at it), Bairro Padre Cruz was for a long time somewhat segregated from the rest of the city and deemed to be dangerous, due to the presence of immigrants and people coming from various violent environments. Some of those people, we were told, did not even see the nearby ocean in 7-8 years. Theatres, associations, and cultural events flourished precisely to help them. Our hostel was in fact an abandoned house taken by Spin Associação, and restored with the help of artists. That's where the cool trainings and workshops happen, and where Spin's Office is.


This EVS was about encounters too. Not with the violent folks from Padre Cruz, we haven't met any matching this particular trait, but encounters with hidden layers of ourselves, and accidental ones with everyone else who crossed our path. As though our spirits would call out our bodies. Wherever we went in the morning, by the evening we were already bumping into each other in different means of transport throughout Lisbon. And in Porto too!

And what a town Porto is...the second largest in Portugal, up in the north, home "of the finest wines" in Portugal, of the best sunsets over the Douro river, stunning Atlantic shores, urban and rural in the same time, this city seems painted rather than built. And they say Portugal derives its name from the Celtic Latin name "o Porto", meaning the port. Now, how did I get there? Long story short, my first hitchhiking experience was done in Portugal. Not alone of course, but with curly-haired Alexandra. She wrote the name Porto with a marker on a bag of Primark, than we took turns in holding it. After an hour of sitting in the wrong place, a driver took us to the right one. Another hour passed 'till our ride, a BMW belonging to a crazy Italian couple stopped to give us a lift. And off we went. Cheapest travel ever, and they gave us pizzas too. They might have thought we are starving artists. The rest of our group was already in Porto, and I accidentally met all of them near a castle while walking with a good friend who was studying there, and who gave me a place to stay in a superb penthouse, with mandarins on the terrace and a view to the stars. Back to The Encounters, we couldn't believe our eyes. I heard from the distance "look, the leopard is right there!". That would have been me "in my leopard-printed coat", and the "I see the leopard" revelation was coming from the never ending fountain of humor in our project, Alin, whom was just passing by. Apparently, when we wanted to take a break from the group, we were destined to meet all over again. Alexandra, who was crushing the couch of another friend of hers, happened to drop by in the same place, at the exact time as the rest of us.

And you know where else we were meeting up? When seeing some of the best contemporary theatre plays and contemporary dances that Lisbon had to offer. That was thanks to our tutor Berta, a woman in her 50's, who adopted a good part of us like a protective mom would take under her wing many abandoned children. Seeing Hamlet (the world's most notorious piece after Cinderella), in the craziest contemporary version, with spoons falling over from the ceiling, omelettes going out of the mistress's mouth, rain bumping in from the windows, touching notions of letting go, love, time, and jealousy, was one of the most profound experiences I had. Forever moving.

And the nights of Fado in Bairro Alto... there is something about Fado that makes you yearn and remember.

And oh! How they sing about romantic Alfama. They make you wanna walk through this neighborhood, not like a regular human, but like an outstanding dancer feeling the floor underneath. In Alfama you don't walk, you breath through your feet... and see with your body. That's how beautiful it is.

Lisbon possesses you with a wish to come back. From its fish market by the river Tagus, to the Elevador de Santa Justa, and all the glorious terraces overlooking the city, the state of the art graffiti on the walls (by the way, Lisbon developed a way to legalize graffiti and pay the artists too, how wonderful!), to the impressive cathedrals (Sé de Lisboa), the churches (Loreto, Encarnação, São Domingos from where the Easter Slaughter of the Jews started in the 15th century), the Pantheon, and with the air spiced up by the literary works of Louis de Camões, Saramago & Pessoa, Lisbon possesses its travelers with an unworldly love.

Home to the oldest bookshop in the world, a masonic beer place (Cervejaria Trinidade), plenty of vintage stores & cork made products, two centuries old candle shops (Loreto Candle House), flea markets, streets filled with lemon, mandarin, and orange trees, fashion and contemporary museums, and with the statue of Jesus looking in the distance straight into the eyes of its taller version from the other continent in Brazil, Lisbon claimed me as a victim of its beauty.

And do you know with whom I used to have my coffee on the weekends? With Pessoa's statue, In Lisbon's best-known café, A Brasileira, a meeting place of several generations of intellectuals, artists and where political plots were being set. That's where Pessoa liked to write too, and his statue is sitting just outside. Inspirational, to say the least. Not to mention on most sugar packages in Lisbon it says " bom dia". And speaking of some other drinks in which you can add sugar... such as tea... well...the custom of drinking tea in England was in fact brought by the Portuguese princess Catarina da Braganza, whom always got a little hungry before dinner, during her marriage with King Charles II, so she was asking for a cup of tea and a snack. Eventually drinking tea became a culture in England too.

And did you know that portuguese people like to compete? They hold an annual contest of what bakery makes the best pastéis de nata, a sweet pastry, invented by the monarchs in San Jeronimo Monastery from Belém, another neighborhood of the city. If you are lucky, you’ll eat the second best pastéis, but if you are smart, you’ll go right next to the monastery in Belém and eat the first best. Belém is also famous for its Tower, where I got to bask my aesthetic senses in the sunset's light, as we were also allowed to do volunteering nearby, for a dog shelter, and for Parque Florestal Monsanto, responsible for the aerial green ways, that keep the air in Lisbon at its most natural fresh.

Being in the team doing food packages for the poor with Banco Alimentar Contra a Fome (The Food Bank Against Hunger), has taught me a lot about the value of thrown away food. But I was mostly impressed by the orphan dogs, as I was taught how to get them out of the cages, without making them feel jealous of one another.

We fell prey to Lisbon, in the same way, as our young audience fell pray to our "1000 smiles" theatre product. Because until the last week of the project, we've been crazily working on this play, mostly hating each other, but that helped focusing on the disparities between what media presents volunteering to be, what young people perceive from it, what organizations strive to put under the carpet, what the politicians dictate, and what is actually happening. It helped so much, that I have the feeling our last days in Lisbon short-circuited any vengeful feelings, with genuine caring for each other. So much as, our lazy ones weren't that lazy anymore, and they were speeding up doing the lizzard-run to catch the bus, and than the rest of the angrily awaiting crowd was suddenly at peace.
We've made it far in this EVS, so far...that we reached the European most occidental point: Cabo da Roca, we climbed our way to Pena Castle in Sintra, romanticizing about Fernando' the II morganatic marriage, and we followed dinosaurs footsteps in Sesimbra.

Half an hour away from Lisbon, is Cascais, the place I crashed 3 times to relax my nerves. With its high up wild ocean coast, rainbows, aesthetic carelessness & paradisiac architecture, it reminded me of my childhood.

I almost missed the plane on my way back home, and somehow I stormed into the aircraft, before business class did, with an untagged 24 kilos luggage that I was allowed to leave by the pilot, for the personnel to come and get it. My Porto wine ended up as a Christmas gift for security, but this is stuff that legend is made of. Thank you TAP Portugal for allowing me to go home when I arrived 35 mins prior to boarding, thank you Iulia, for jumping on my bag so I could pull the zipper, thanks to Andrada, for helping me carry it to the bus, to the team in the bus that, like me, had no idea I was losing the plane, to SPIN Association for one of the most original experiences ever, to our amazing tour guide in Lisbon, Kyriacos (man, you really do know some history and culture!), and to our trainer, Ginjinha-lover Graziano, who made us flow together, towards the oceans and the seas.

Thank you for reading!

C: Deea Wolf

09 março 2016

My first days as an EVS volunteer in Lisbon!

When I applied for my EVS project at Spin in Lisbon I didn’t really know what to expect.

Moving abroad without knowing the language, the people and the city is always a bit frightening and I have to admit that I was nervous before departure. As soon as I landed in Lisbon and Inês kindly picked me up at the airport all my fears disappeared. I knew I was going to be in good hands and after my first week here in this beautiful capital I have to say that I was right…

On the first night Inês took me to my new house in Anjos where I met my flatmates. The welcome has been extraordinary as I was met with joy and curiosity. The friendliness of the people in the Anjos building served as an energizer after a very tiring day spent at three different airports and after two flights. Dona Isabel, the land lady welcomed me speaking in Italian and treating me like one of the family. Now every time we meet in the building we speak in her half Italian and in my half Portuguese but we manage to understand each other very well! When you speak in the language of the heart words are not always necessary… After meeting with everybody I finally went to sleep to get the energy back for my first days at Spin.

The day after at the office I met with Inês again and we went through a lot of bureaucratic things that had to be done. Inês has been very open and enthusiastic about my ideas for some projects that I would like to develop and I appreciated it a lot. Knowing that I am part of a team that has the aim of developing projects together was definitely a good way to start my EVS at Spin! After meeting my new colleagues and Spin’s team, Maurizio, an EVS volunteer from Florence cooked pasta alla carbonara for lunch to welcome me. Fortunately I didn’t arrive unprepared because I had brought with me typical bread, cream cheese and sweets from Sardinia… As I expected nobody complained about it!

During the week end I had the chance to explore the city, its night life and its food. I must admit that this combination left me breathless. As I walked my way up to Castelo and I watched the sun going down on the river Tago I felt a strong sense of belonging to this enchanting and romantic place. Since I enjoy food and music a lot I couldn’t wait to go out for dinner in a little restaurant in Intendente where I had an exquisite Portuguese dinner and in Cais Do Sodre to listen to a very cool local jazz group.

After a busy week end full of excitement, food, museums, art exhibitions and my first and unforgettable pastel de nata, which by the way is my new addiction, I started my work as a volunteer on Monday. My first task was to go with my colleague Maurizio to interview my housemates Paola and Paolo at their places of work and take pictures of the area. Since they are developing a project that uses photography to engage the community of Carnide it was very interesting to see how people react to projects like this one. I left with the feeling that if you do projects well the community responds positively and this gave me hope for activities I would like to do in the future. It was also interesting to know more about Paolo’s and Paola’s viewpoints on the EVS volunteering programme and their feelings since I’m the newest here.

Well, I guess this is all for now and if the rest of the nine months are going to be as exciting as my first week was I think I will enjoy this experience very much…


04 março 2016

O testemunho do Diogo, voluntário SVE na Polónia

147. Dos 180 dias do meu projecto de voluntariado já passaram 147. Falta 33 dias para voltar a Portugal e os dias já me começam a saber a pouco. Já começo a sentir o tão famoso sentimento de ansiedade por querer voltar e por não querer partir. Por enquanto tenho de me ir contentando com isso e com a possibilidade de partilhar a minha experiência.  

Isto de se vir para um SVE não é coisa fácil. Não é no início quando só se pensa no que está para vir e não é agora que temos de lidar com tudo o que acontece - e ainda por cima noutro país e cultura! Mas isso faz tudo parte da tão bem dita experiência de SVE.

Por aqui, em Wroclaw (Polónia), trabalho na TRATWA, uma organização criada após umas cheias em 1997 e que retira da jangada o seu nome. Hoje já não se dedicam a catástrofes naturais mas sim a trabalhar com grupos em risco de exclusão social e tentar melhor a vida social e cultural de tantos outros, promovendo as ideias da Europa.

Foi com o objectivo de desenvolver projectos com jovens, seniores e junto da Capital Europeia da Cultura 2016 que vim para aqui. E foi isso que fiz. O trabalho nunca é certo e varia sem com as necessidades, por isso, com os mais jovens organizamos workshops (na associação e em escolas) onde promovemos ferramentas como o trabalho de equipa, pensamento crítico e sensibilização para a cultura e diferenças sociais. Com os seniores dedicamos-nos a um saboroso workshop de culinária típica portuguesa e espanhola semanal (algumas vezes polaca) e, apenas eu, a um curso de animação linguista de inglês. Depois destas actividades ainda há a mais cultural delas todas - estar inserido no grupo de voluntários estrangeiros da Capital Europeia da Cultura e poder participar em alguns dos eventos (bem com fazer trabalho mais chato como traduções).

Todo este trabalho se tem provado bastante exigente e necessita de uma equipa forte e capaz de se suportar. Felizmente aqui encontrei essa equipa com a minha compatriota Isa e "nuestra hermana" Laura. É em equipa eu enfrentamos os desafios diários do trabalho e da vida num país tão culturalmente distante do nosso. Também é em equipa que construímos a nossa vida social; felizmente Wroclaw tem muitos voluntários para onde nos virarmos e muitos sítios em redor para visitar.

Agora, a 33 dias de terminar o meu voluntariado, estou a dedicar-me a construir o meu projecto pessoal - a exibição de um festival de curtas portuguesas em Wroclaw e um pequeno concurso de curtas para os jovens da associação. Por estes próximos 25 dias, este vai ser o meu desafio, depois - antecipo - será lidar com as despedidas.

E até agora é este o resumo do meu SVE. Uma mistura semi-amarga (porque coisas más também as há!) de trabalho, viagens, risos, experiências e muito frio. 

Escrito a 27 de Fevereiro de 20016. Wroclaw.

Diogo Pereira